I’m privileged to serve Leadership Huntington, a local nonprofit serving those open to learning about and getting involved in our town. One cornerstone is an intimate 9-month community leadership program that explores the Town’s history, government, businesses and nonprofits. We explore issues, build relationships, and find we are not alone. What happens in Leadership stays in Leadership, but you can bet that at some point someone will assert that we live on Long Island, pay its taxes and endure its challenges because Long Island is the best place to live. Debates ensue and I wonder – Is it? Is this fish of an island feeding on the Eastern Seaboard really “all that”?
I think so, mostly because it’s my fish with four generations of family, all they’ve built that can’t be moved, and scores of relationships built over lifetimes…and I do like the food. Where else are corporate franchises so pressed to compete with high quality, reasonably priced local fare? Oh, and Dairy Barn — I’m not the biggest drive-through fan. I favor a world where people get off their rears periodically, but I do love Dairy Barn…
Long Island is a pretty place with sandy beaches and beautiful trees, but it’s hard to find open space among the people. Too many trees have given way to greedy sprawl. It’s hardly the only place with good cooking and historic towns. Much as I love my people, I could just visit. I have plenty of far-flung friends inviting me to be their much more affordably-placed neighbor. When I left for five years, there really was one thing I missed…
I’m from New York, land where the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are just a few resident heavyweights. You can get them anywhere, though, and they’re globally relevant. However, I never realized how valuable Newsday and News 12 were until I lived where local reports were scarce. Worse, they were neither substantive enough to have weight nor local enough to matter, at least not by standards I took for granted. I missed the incredible resource Long Island has in diverse platforms for local voices. There are many quality publications. Here are my favorites:
The Long Island Press is everywhere. Its sticker price belies its content. I’m the kind who reads Rolling Stone for its in-depth reporting, and I LOVE that I can pick up a local parallel for free and find hardcore, follow-the-money journalism, with an edgy intelligence that’s doesn’t kowtow to a PC, ADHD world, but speaks frankly and maintains a daring willingness to say what it sees….the best, the worst, and all manner of mediocrity.
Then there’s the Long Island Business News, which I find more sincere and filled with facts I can use than the Wall Street Journal. Even their advertising can be newsworthy and there’s real interest in highlighting those trying to make a dent, and helping the rest of us simply trying to make a living. I may be alone in getting a rush when I receive my annual Book of Lists, but I’ve seen enough wonks maintain boxes of papers for reference to think not. I’ve also spent enough time squished into spacious venues to know I’m not alone in jostling to connect and be inspired at their celebrations highlighting the region’s greatest hopes and most profound legacy-leavers.
Closer to home (Syosset’s my address, Huntington’s my home), I relish the Long Islander. Founded in 1838 by the great poet and newspaperman Walt Whitman, it offers a depth and breadth to Huntington that some states would be lucky to have. Some criticize staffers for being too involved. I understand this concern, generally, but this is very local. I’m glad they’re transparent about being part of the community they’ve haunted for nearly two centuries. It seems to inform rather than skew reporting. They’re more balanced than others who don’t acknowledge local interests, and cover what they find important rather than immediately popular. Staffers do seem encouraged to make a difference on their own time. They’re good neighbors who take their responsibility to their community seriously.
Then there’s the Corridor, whose nexus is Route 110. Here, honesty in influence reaches a whole new level. It’s not advertorials they’re selling, exactly, but they tell you precisely who the top sponsor is by making that the cover story. All original, all the time, the Corridor illustrates people behind the machines. Beyond paying sponsors essential to the business model, the passion is for giving a lift to new entrepreneurs, BIG ideas, and exploring opportunities, potential pitfalls and newsworthy events. The potential is enormous.
In a world of shrinking newsrooms and vanishing rags; where you read articles in sixteen publications that have copied each other word for word, Long Island has so far managed to remain a haven for journalism and educated opinion spanning a breadth of perspective. This is not easy – intelligence doesn’t come cheap even if you can get writers to give their best for free, and that just doesn’t seem right if we can avoid it. I’m proud to budget my subscriptions, duly note the advertisers, and contribute whatever I can to keep the presses – and their reporters — running. After all, they not only enlighten debates on whether this Island is worth the challenges, they help us see how we might address them. They’re also one of the main reasons I love this place.